Band on the run
Niners gain 252 yards on the ground in 20-10 victoryPosted: Sunday September 22, 2002 8:25 PM
Updated: Monday September 23, 2002 2:51 AM
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- In the 48 hours before Sunday's game, a stomach virus infected nearly a third of the San Francisco 49ers. Sparsely attended team meetings were cut short, and some players wore surgical masks to avoid the bug.
The Washington Redskins had no such excuses for why their offense still looks so sickly.
Terrell Owens scored on a spectacular 38-yard run, and the 49ers played stellar defense and rushed for 252 yards in a grinding 20-10 victory over the Redskins.
Pro Bowl quarterback Jeff Garcia missed most of the second half with a bad case, while other players were exhausted by halftime. The 49ers went through 20 bags of intravenous fluid before the game, and more between halves.
But the 49ers had their most prolific rushing game in nearly two years -- and Washington (1-2) gained just 41 yards while going scoreless in the second half.
"When you've got so many guys down and out like we did, you've got to stick to a simple game plan," said Garrison Hearst, who rushed for 97 yards. "We did the easy stuff. Just run it straight ahead and beat them head-to-head."
Though nobody on the 49ers (2-1) claimed to have thoughts of revenge, it was a satisfying victory over the team that pounded them 37-7 in an exhibition game in Japan seven weeks ago.
Steve Spurrier used his first-stringers longer than San Francisco in the preseason game, but nothing helped the Washington coach in the rematch.
"It's the whole team -- don't put it all on the quarterbacks," Spurrier said. "Our offensive line didn't play super. We had a lot of disappointing third-quarter plays. They had some good coverage and an excellent pass rush."
Spurrier again yanked quarterback Shane Matthews for Danny Wuerffel in the fourth quarter, but neither of his former Florida stars could get the Redskins going, and Wuerffel threw an interception on the Redskins' final drive. Washington managed just 217 yards.
One sight summed up the sorry state of Washington's offense: In the locker room, several D.C.-area television crews interviewed third-string rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey, who hasn't played yet and wasn't supposed to this season after holding out in training camp.
Matthews didn't sound much like a veteran trying to hold his job.
"I tried everything I could to help my team win," Matthews said. "Patrick is their future. I will be supportive about whatever their decision is. ... For whatever reason, we can't get it going yet. We're not where we should be."
San Francisco punctuated its win with a monotonously satisfying eight-minute drive to close the game -- a drive led by backup quarterback Tim Rattay.
Owens' TD run was the highlight of the afternoon, but the All-Pro receiver couldn't head for the bye week without his first verbal jab of the season at head coach Steve Mariucci. Owens didn't like the 49ers' decision to kneel on the final two plays of the game on the Washington 16.
"It's just about killer instinct, period, on both sides of the ball," Owens said. "I don't know what went into that decision. [Kneeling] wasn't my decision. I'm not the only one that feels this way."
Last season, Owens criticized Mariucci for not trying harder to score in the fourth quarter against Chicago in a game the Niners lost in overtime.
"We were a sick team to start, and became a banged-up team," Mariucci said. "This was one of the reasons I played it very conservatively and safely the last couple of minutes."
The 49ers didn't need much offense -- not with Hearst and Kevan Barlow, who rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown.
Washington's offense, which couldn't get into the end zone last week against Philadelphia, actually moved the ball well in the first half, including two scoring drives of 12 plays apiece. Zeron Flemister caught a 19-yard TD pass late in the first half from Matthews, who was 17-of-28 for 169 yards.
San Francisco led 7-3 midway through the second quarter when Owens took a handoff from Garcia and drifted back, looking to pass. J.J. Stokes couldn't get open -- so Owens ducked, dodged, reversed his field and headed for the end zone.
Helped by huge blocks from Hearst and Garcia, Owens outran or ran over nearly every Washington defender before walking over the goal line to ecstatic cheers from the sellout crowd. It was the longest rush of Owens' career.
"I had a couple of options, but I went with my quarterback instincts, and I ran it," Owens said with a grin. "It felt like it was about 88 yards."
Notes: Both teams have a bye next week. ... The 49ers lost starting linebackers Jamie Winborn and Julian Peterson to injuries in the second half. Peterson hurt his right knee and hip and
Winborn sprained his left knee. ... Jessie Armstead had 17 tackles